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review 2018-06-27 16:21
True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop - Annie Darling

Since a bad break up Verity Love has sworn off men. Well real men. She has invented an imaginary boyfriend to keep her family and friends at bay. Luckily this boyfriend has an imaginary job that requires a lot of travel. But one day circumstances throw her in the path of Johnny True, and a couple of stalking friends mean that Johnny and Verity are now a fake couple. The pair vow to ‘date’ for the wedding season and then go their separate ways. They will defintely, positively, not fall in love on the way.

 

This novel was a sequel, though I didn’t realise that when I started to read it. The fact that I hadn’t read the first novel didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this one.

 

This book is a little comedy of errors. Verity and Johnny are thrown together unexpectedly. What results is a gentle paced, sweet story of how two people fight falling in love. Verity is shy, introverted to some extent, and constantly asks herself ‘What would Elizabeth Bennet do?’  but this is in part a reaction to her over the top, exhuberant and funny family. She’s invented a boyfriend to stave off their questions. Then comes unstuck when they mistake Johnny for him. Johnny has his own reasons for finding an advantage to having a fake girlfriend as he has difficulty leaving a past love behind. Both characters are lovely to read, as are the host of others that fill the bookshop, from Verity’s sister Merry, her dotty dad Vicar and her mum Our Vicar’s Wife and the rest of her madcap family.

 

There are other love stories going on, including a glimpse of the happy ever after of Verity’s friend and boss Posy. The story featuring William, Johnny’s father, is also lovely to read.

 

There’s also always something delightful about books set in bookshops. I don’t know whether it’s just because they appeal to the bibliophile in me or because they are are celebrating books in multiple ways but there is a little bit of extra magic about when books are about books. Of course I wanted to visit the bookshop, it sounded so inviting it would have been almost impossible to not want to visit.

 

A lovely, book filled, love filled novel. I’ll be interested to read more by Annie Darling in the future.

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review 2018-06-11 15:49
All The Lonely People by Jess Riley
All the Lonely People - Jess Riley

WANTED: a whole new family to share holidays with. Please have a good heart and be a thoughtful, polite person. No sociopaths, no pedophiles, no fans of the Kardashians. We're not weirdos, I promise. I love old Steve Martin movies, new Steve Martin banjo tunes, Indian food, and reruns of Bob Ross painting happy little trees. So if you're looking for something other than the typical family dysfunction this Christmas, drop us a line.

After losing her beloved mother to cancer, 37-year-old Jaime Collins must confront the ugly fact that she and her siblings don't actually like one another. At all. Fueled by grief and an epic argument at Thanksgiving dinner, Jaime decides to divorce her siblings and posts an ad on Craigslist for a new family with whom to share Christmas dinner.

What happens next is a heartwarming, funny, and surprising journey to forgiveness and healing. Is blood really thicker than water? What makes a family? And how far do we have to go to find our way back home again?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel touches upon the topics of cutting, depression, abusive relationships and attempted suicide.

 

Thirty-seven year old Jaime Collins recently lost her mom to cancer. Now the holiday season is just around the corner and Jaime could not be less enthused. She has no interest in holiday shopping or putting on smiles around her insensitive brother and meddlesome sister-in-law. Things come to a head when she ends up having a blow-out fight with her siblings over Thanksgiving dinner. Riding the high emotions of that night, Jaime goes home and decides to place a Craigslist ad for a new family for Christmas. She requests responses from anyone else feeling alone or fed up with their own family situation. She crafts the ad while intoxicated, posts, and within 12 hours has 26 responses to sift through. The winners for her Christmas party include transgender Chris, daschund-loving Paul, welding artist Evelyn (who also happens to have a dander allergy) and Alyssa, a science major struggling through her own grieving process after recently losing her boyfriend in a car wreck.

 

 

All the Lonely People

re-release cover for this book

 

 

While this story certainly has its laughs, it may not be for the more sensitive readers out there because plenty of hard-hitting topics are addressed over the course of Jaime's story. There's also a fair bit of crude language and dark / off-color / risque humor (ie. jokes about strap-ons) implemented in the process. In addition to witnessing our main character work through the grieving process over the death of her mother, we (the readers) are also informed of Jaime's father-in-law battling Alzheimer's, Jaime herself struggling with fertility issues (her journey through IVF treatments), as well as the plot also bringing up the topics of cutting, depression, attempted suicide, abusive relationships and struggles with gender identity.

 

That night, I sleep on the couch for the first time in years... Erik finds me downstairs in the morning, a hurt look on his face. "We never sleep apart," he says, like a wounded little boy. I tell him he was snoring, that I couldn't sleep, that I didn't want to wake him with my tossing and turning. The real reason is this: I'd simply wanted to be alone with my sadness, giving it space to spread out, because there wasn't enough room for all three of us in the queen-sized bed...Part of it was that I felt like a broken shard from a smashed vase, and I only wanted to spend time with the other broken pieces because maybe we could glue ourselves together and hold water again. Erik wasn't a broken shard. He was a whole vase, forged from some space-age unbreakable polymer. He bounced when he fell. I shattered into sharp little pieces waiting to slice into the next person unfortunate enough to walk into the room barefoot. Or as Frankie would say, I'd cut a bitch. And then feel really bad about it.

 

Even though I can appreciate that important topics were brought to light in the unfolding of this story, and the story itself is solidly entertaining, it did go on a little long for me. By Chapter 17 I was feeling like the story could've been sufficiently wrapped up, all questions answered... a feeling that continued on right through Chapter 26... and even after that you get three more chapters! I also didn't always love Jaime. In fact, she struck me as a being a little petty with her dad near the end of the book.

 

In the acknowledgements, Jess Riley gives a shout-out to author friend Jen Lancaster.

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text 2018-04-29 12:24
One of those days

Man, I really miss Steve Irwin & Mr. Rogers.

 

They are some of the "famous" people whose deaths feel really personal, as if they were family. Each time I see mention of them, I burst into tears. There are other famous people whose death feel personal, but I grew up with these guys. Death really gets to me even if I barely knew the person, even if I didn't know them at all. I don't mean only for famous people. Anyone. I've been told it is because I have a big heart, but does my mental health "glitches" play a part in how death basically triggers me into a melt down, depressive state?

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-19 00:00
Texas Lonely
Texas Lonely - Jean Brashear To hero or not to hero? Between the writing talents of Jean Brashear and the vocal stylings of Eric G. Dove, it's really not that hard of a choice. The loner vs. the lioness is the battle that wages between the pages of Texas Lonely. Nothing is as it seems. The secrets are haunting, the romance is epic and the story is heartbreaking. A hero is someone who knows the risks, but steps into the fire. Perrie and Mitch are the personification of heroism, as well as the greatest of example of love's staying power. Team Hero, here I come.
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review 2018-02-22 02:56
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill
The Lonely Hearts Hotel - Heather O'Neill

Set in the early part of the 20th century, between the first and second World War, this novel is part love story, part feminist novel.  It also sometimes feels like a fairy tale with parts of the story told in such a lyrical way, there should be a musical accompaniment.

 

In the winter of 1914 in Montreal, two babies are abandoned by their teenage mothers and end up in the same orphanage.  Rose and Pierrot are both gifted entertainers and from a young age, use their talents to captivate their fellow orphans.  Eventually, people outside the orphanage notice their talent and Rose and Pierrot are paraded through the parlours of the rich to generate funds for the orphanage.  Not unexpectedly, none of the funds actually benefit the orphans but rather make the nuns’ lives - a cruel and perverse group - more comfortable.

 

Separated as teenagers, Rose finds herself sent to a rich home as a tutor for unruly children.  Little do the parents know that Rose is not much better than an unruly child herself.  Pierrot also finds himself in a rich household as a companion to an eccentric and elderly man who is estranged from his family.  While neither situation teach Rose and Pierrot the skills they need to support themselves in depression-era Montreal, it becomes evident quickly that Rose is the pragmatic survivor while Pierrot remains the  whimsical artist.

 

Reconnecting again as adults, Rose and Pierrot renew their love for each other and for the talent and quirkiness that connected them as young children.  They work together to build a life and to make their childhood dream of becoming stage performers come true.  The story is heart breaking and gritty, with even the happiest of moments shadowed by the harshness life at that time.

 

The writing in this book is wonderful.  Experiences that I have never - in many cases, thankfully - had in my life are made so real through Heather O’Neill’s unique use of words. 

 

A train trip to New York is described as follows:

 

“They went through a series of old, crotchety mountains.  They were so old they didn’t look dangerous anymore.  Occasionally a big boulder rolled off them into the middle of a road or landed on top of a deer, but on the whole they had found their place in the world.  The rain had worn their peaks down, one argument at a time.”

 

This story makes a particularly moving statement on women and the struggles they face daily simply to be respected.

 

“Men were taught to have so much pride, to go out into the world and make something of themselves.  This Depression was deeply humiliating.  Since women were taught that they were worthless, they took poverty and hardship less personally.”

 

Or even more of a direct statement that as a woman,

 

“You were often only an ethical question away from being a prostitute.”

 

If I have a criticism of the story, I did find that it took a frustratingly long time for Rose and Pierrot to reconnect as adults.  I understand that building suspense is necessary however, I felt that I had to suspend disbelief in order to accept the number of times that Rose and Pierrot crossed paths but didn’t actually meet each other.  At one point, Pierrot exited by the front door of a room while Rose was entering through the back door.

 

That said, this book is simply captivating.  It was difficult to climb out of the story and go back to regular life - I so desperately wanted Rose and Pierrot to escape the orphanage, find each other again, become rich and successful and live happily ever after!  This book is a more realistic than that of course but you won’t be able to stop rooting for Rose and Pierrot.

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